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Parshas Emor - Vol. 12, Issue 28
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Daber el B'nei Yisroel leimor bachodesh ha'shevi'i b'echad lachodesh yihyeh lachem Shabbason zichron teruah Mikra Kodesh (23:24)
Ach be'asor lachodesh ha'shevi'i hazeh yom hakippurim hu Mikra Kodesh yihyeh lachem v'inisem es nafshoseichem (23:27)

Parshas Emor contains a list of the Yomim Tovim and their associated mitzvos. In most cases, the Torah first gives the date of the Yom Tov and declares it to be a Mikra Kodesh - day designated for holiness, and then proceeds to discuss the unique mitzvos of that festival, such as eating matzah on Pesach and fasting on Yom Kippur. However, there is one glaring exception. When discussing Rosh Hashana, the Torah first gives the mitzvah of the day - zichron teruah (blowing the shofar) - and only afterward mentions that it shall be a Mikra Kodesh, an inversion of the order used regarding every other Yom Tov. What is the reason for this anomaly?

In his sefer Pachad Yitzchok on Rosh Hashana (28), Rav Yitzchok Hutner explains that each of the festivals is designated as a holy Yom Tov, and as a result, there are special mitzvos to be done on those days. For this reason, each of them is first described as a Mikra Kodesh, and only afterward are the mitzvos, which emanate from the Mikra Kodesh, mentioned. By reversing the order for Rosh Hashana, the Torah is telling us that it is different in this regard. Unlike other Yomim Tovim that only possess their special status because the Torah stipulates that they are a Mikra Kodesh, Rosh Hashana is inherently a yom hadin - day of Heavenly judgment. It is the day when Hashem judges the entire world, completely independent of the fact that it is a Mikra Kodesh. Therefore, the Torah first tells us to sound the shofar on Rosh Hashana as a means of enabling us to be found meritorious in judgment, and only afterward does it add that it is also a Mikra Kodesh.

As support for this insight, Rav Yisroel Reisman points out that prior to the giving of the Torah, there was no Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana and there was no Mikra Kodesh in effect, yet it was still a yom hadin. This is because of Rosh Hashana's status as hayom haras olam - the day of the world's creation, and on that day, we all pass before Hashem in judgment. This also helps us understand how Hashem can judge non-Jews, angels, and animals on Rosh Hashana, even though they have no part in the Mikra Kodesh aspect of the day. The Torah subtly alludes to this concept by intimating that in contrast to the mitzvos for other Yomim Tovim that emanate from the day's status as a Mikra Kodesh, the Day of Judgment has been around since the time of Creation, which warrants the blowing of the shofar even if it would not be a Yom Tov.

V'lakachtem lachem bayom harishon pri eitz hadar kappos temarim v'anaf eitz avos v'arvei nachal (23:40)

In discussing the mitzvos of Sukkos, the Torah commands us to take four species: lulav, esrog, hadasim, and aravos. However, none of the species are referred to in the Torah using the names by which we know them. The esrog is called a pri eitz hadar, the fruit of a beautiful tree, which the Gemora (Sukkah 35a) identifies as an esrog. The Malbim explains that there are two seemingly synonymous words in the Hebrew language: hod and hadar, both of which mean beauty. What is the difference between them? The Malbim explains that the term hadar refers to external beauty, while the word hod is used to connote internal beauty, such as when Hashem commands Moshe (Bamidbar 27:20) v'nasata me'hodcha alav - Place some of your hod, your glory and internal beauty, upon Yehoshua.

Rav Yisroel Reisman points out that when the beauty of human beings is discussed in Tanach, sometimes the expression hod is used, and at other times we find hadar, but they are never used in tandem. According to the Malbim's dichotomy, he explains that an individual person can either be beautiful on the outside or beautiful on the inside, but not both at the same time, as hod and hadar are inconsistent with one another. A person who possesses external beauty is likely to be haughty and vain, while somebody who is beautiful on the inside tends not to focus as much on his outer appearance. However, regarding Hashem we find (Divrei HaYamim 1 16:27) that hod v'hadar l'fanav - there is both internal and external beauty before Him, for He alone is uniquely capable of maintaining these two contradictory traits.

Rav Reisman adds that this insight fits nicely with Rav Gedaliah Schorr's explanation of the poem ha'aderes v'ha'emunah l'Chai Olamim - Strength and faithfulness are His Who lives eternally - that many have the custom to sing on Simchas Torah. Rav Schorr explains that each line in this song refers to two concepts that generally do not go together, but in each case, we praise Hashem for possessing these opposite characteristics. For example, ha'oz v'ha'anava l'Chai Olamim - He has both might and modesty. Normally, powerful humans let their prestige go to their heads, but Hashem is able to balance both attributes simultaneously. Similarly, we say ha'deiah v'ha'dibbur l'Chai Olamim - Knowledge and speech belong to Hashem. The Gemora teaches (Pesachim 99a) that silence is good for the wise, yet Hashem is capable of being wise and also speaking. In this vein, we also praise Hashem by saying that ha'hod v'ha'hadar l'Chai Olamim - He possesses both internal and external beauty, which for human beings are mutually exclusive, yet they coexist for Hashem.

Vayanicheihu bamishmar lifrosh lahem al pi Hashem (24:12)

Parshas Emor concludes with a tragic episode in which a man cursed and blasphemed Hashem. Initially, Moshe did not know the appropriate punishment for this sin, so the blasphemer was placed in jail while they awaited clarification from Hashem regarding his sentence. Rashi explains that even though this incident occurred in the same period of time as the episode of the wood-gatherer (Bamidbar 15:32-36), the blasphemer was not placed in a jail cell together with him, but rather was incarcerated by himself. Why indeed were they not placed together?

In his sefer Ikvei Erev, Rav Azriel Lankeh explains that Rashi writes that at that time, it was still unknown whether the blasphemer was liable to the death penalty altogether. In contrast, they already knew that the man who gathered wood on Shabbos was going to be put to death (Shemos 31:14), and Moshe was merely waiting for Hashem to tell him which form of execution to use. Accordingly, if they put the blasphemer in the same cell as the wood-gatherer, it would be tantamount to placing him on "death row" prematurely, which would cause him needless anguish and anxiety. Until Hashem informed Moshe that the blasphemer was indeed to be put to death, it would have been cruel to treat him like somebody whose death sentence has already been determined, and therefore he was confined separately.

Rav Yissocher Frand adds that the sensitivity displayed by the Torah is astonishing when we realize that the person in question was not an upstanding member of society, or even a run-of-the-mill sinner, but rather a person who committed the reprehensible sin of cursing Hashem's name. In contrast to other sins that are motivated by momentary lusts and desires, this action gave no personal pleasure or benefit, and represented a premeditated rebellion against Hashem.

If we were in charge of deciding the fate of such an evil person, we would be inclined to show him no mercy or compassion, placing him in jail to rot with no concern for his emotional state. However, Moshe understood that ultimately, the blasphemer was still a Jew, and as such, had to be treated with sensitivity. Because his punishment was not yet known, it was therefore forbidden to cause him any unnecessary suffering by treating him in a manner which could lead him to conclude that he had already been condemned to death, when that was not the case. If the Torah shows so much concern for the psychological welfare of a person who blasphemed Hashem, how much more so must we be considerate and understanding to the feelings of every Jew with whom we interact.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Mishnah in Gittin (90a) contains a dispute regarding when a man may divorce his wife. Beis Shammai maintains that he may do so only if she commits an immodest act, while Beis Hillel opines that he may do so even if she merely burned his food, and Rebbi Akiva posits that he may do so even if he finds another woman who is more attractive. According to Beis Shammai, why does the Torah need to forbid (21:7) a Kohen to marry a divorced woman when she would be forbidden to him regardless as a harlot? (P'nei Dovid, Divrei Dovid, Har Tzvi 22:13, Derech Sicha Vol. 2)

2) The Torah commands us (21:8) to sanctify Kohanim and to treat them respectfully, giving them precedence in all spiritual matters. If a Kohen and a Yisroel have the same level of obligation to pray as Shaliach Tzibbur, is there a mitzvah to give precedence to the Kohen? (Pri Megadim Orach Chaim 53:14, Shu"t Chelkas Yaakov 2:49)

3) What should a person do if he crosses the International Date Line during the period of time known as Sefiras HaOmer (23:15-16), either in a manner which causes him to completely "miss" one of the days of the Omer or in a manner which causes him to "repeat" one of the days of the Omer? (Mikraei Kodesh Pesach 2:63, Shu"t Be'er Moshe Vol. 7, Shu"t B'tzeil HaChochmah 5:96-98, Shu"t Mishneh Halachos 10:121, Shu"t Kinyan Torah 5:46, Torah L'Daas Vol. 8, Piskei Teshuvos 489:6)

  2017 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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